Moving Towards Zero: Recommendations Released on Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety System

Melanie Francis

A nearly year-long review by the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety has resulted in the release of a 62-page Report containing 46 recommendations aimed at overhauling Ontario’s occupational health and safety (OHS) system.

The Panel was established in early 2010 with a mandate to provide recommendations to the Minister of Labour on how the various partners in the OHS system could best work together to achieve the common goal of zero workplace injuries.  The Panel’s Report, released on December 16, 2010, can be read in its entirety at: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pdf/eap_report.pdf and we encourage you to take a look.

While it is impossible to fully discuss each recommendation in the Report here, the Panel has identified 11 of its recommendations as priorities for implementation.  These 11 recommendations fit within four themes or categories.

1.         Streamlining the System

While health and safety in the workplace is a shared responsibility amongst many stakeholders, the Panel has recommended that a singular authority be appointed “to drive and be accountable for integration and direction” of the OHS system. As part of this recommendation, the “Chief Prevention Officer” would be assisted by a new “Provincial Prevention Office” within the Ministry of Labour.

2.         Assisting Small Businesses

The Panel has suggested that small businesses present a unique challenge and has accordingly recommended the appointment of a small business advisory committee and the assignment of specific staff dedicated to enforcement and prevention activities specifically for small businesses.

3.         Improved Protection from Reprisals

The Panel has also determined that changes are required within the system for complaints of reprisal made by employees in order to improve access and better protect those engaged in the process.  The Panel has recommended that the Ministry and the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) work together to develop an expedited process for the resolution of reprisal complaints and that improved support be made available for those involved.

4.         Mandatory Training

The Panel has focused heavily on increased training. If all of the Panel’s recommendations are put in place, mandatory training would be implemented for all Health and Safety Representatives (required for workplaces of 6-19 employees). Health and safety awareness training would also be implemented for all workers and supervisors responsible for frontline workers. Further, specific training for sectors like the construction industry, workers working at heights and other high-hazard activities would also be developed.

Conclusion

The extent to which the recommendations in the Report will be implemented remain to be seen. Regardless, understanding workplace safety issues is integral for employers and employees alike. The Panel’s Report provides some insight into the potential changes that may be put in place in the future.

If you have any questions arising from the Report or in respect of an occupational health and safety matter, please contact one of the members of our Labour and Employment group.

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